Königstein-Montréal, August 19, 2022 – Statements from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International Executive President, Thomas Heine-Geldern, and National Director of ACN Canada Marie-Claude Lalonde, on the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief (August 22).
“You don’t have to be murdered to be a victim; it is enough to have your basic freedoms restricted. Christians in Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, to name just a few, are practically living in ghettos and practicing their faith underground,” warns Thomas Heine-Geldern, ACN International Executive President.
“I agree with Thomas,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada. “We are living in a summer where international media shows us that violence against believers—Christians and Muslims alike, especially in Africa—is taking on alarming proportions. I call on the government of Mr. Trudeau to take this international day of commemoration as an opportunity to reiterate his commitment not only to work against all forms of religious persecution and discrimination, but also to work to eliminate the sources of what is causing many of the conflicts in Africa, notably by raising awareness of the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.
Indeed, in Africa, the link between the discovery of abundant mineral resources and the arrival of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups is increasingly being established1. Many partners often tell us the same story: ‘When mineral wealth is discovered on our territory, it means that war is coming.’ The attacked territory is subsequently emptied of its inhabitants, who are consequently left without land or resources. Mining companies, including Canadian ones, then set up shop.
It would be simple to increase awareness of the existence of the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson amongst the African populations affected by these phenomena, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, and Nigeria,” believes Ms. Lalonde.
Interreligious dialogue: fundamental
“The greatest tragedy of all is the indifference of so many in the face of religious persecution. We cannot be silent in this situation,” declares Thomas Heine-Geldern.
“On August 22, we should remember not only those who lost their lives, but also all those who are victims of discrimination and who suffer the immediate consequences of violence, as well as the displaced, the traumatised and all those who are kidnapped, including some whose whereabouts remain unknown. Besides two priests in Burkina Faso and two in Nigeria, more than 10 priests remain missing in China, some of whom have been gone for months or even years. Let us not forget them,” he adds.
“ACN insists on the vital importance of interreligious dialogue to counter religious fundamentalism, and calls on religious leaders, politicians, and the media to play a crucial role in building up communities centred on peace and justice. International organisations and institutions are also asked to commit to guaranteeing the right to religious freedom,” concludes ACN’s executive president.
1. ACN Religious Freedom in the World Report 2021. (The Executive Summary can be found here: https://acn-canada.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Executive-Summary-2021-EN_CAN_WEB.pdf).